Guest writer Brian Vollmer, lead singer of Helix, gives us his lowdown on last month’s Monsters Of Rock Cruise.

Well, we’re finally back from the Monsters of Rock Boat Cruise, and I must say, it was an experience I’ll remember the rest of my life.

Aside from the fact the U.S. border guards wouldn’t let us take in our instruments (even though we had all the paperwork together that the Musician’s Union told us to) the whole tour was pretty much stress free. In fact, it was like going on the vacation of a lifetime, as our cabins were top notch, we met so many great people (band stars and fans alike), the weather was great, and the hospitality from promoters Larry Morland and Harland top notch.

Before we even got on the ship, Jeff Miller, our U.S. agent, picked us up and drove us to Nicko McBrain’s restaurant in Coral Springs, (Rock and Roll Ribs) where we met up with the famous Eddie Trunk, who was just finishing off his meal with a couple of the guys from Y&T & Bang Tango. Nicko is an old friend of Lynda’s, so it was hugs and kisses all ’round and a frenzied conversation to catch up on the last 20 years. The last time we saw Nicko was backstage at Maple Leaf Gardens, where E.M.I. presented the band with a slew of gold and platinum albums in the early 90s.

Nicko commented on how he had just been looking through his old photo albums and had come across a picture on Lynda at his first wedding. He laughed at the irony of it all.

Most of the bands on the cruise had been put up at The Hilton in Fort Lauderdale. From the Friday morning until we came back that night from supper at Nicko’s restaurant bands were arriving at the hotel-The London Quireboys, Femme Fatale, Stryper, etc. You could feel the excitement in the air and the anticipation we were embarking on something very special. We boarded the S.S. Poesia the next day (Saturday) and the boat pulled out of Port Everglades at 7.00pm. We said hello to everyone we could on the boat and took pictures with some celebs.

Brian with Nicko McBrain

The next couple of days flew by. We had an autograph session with Lita Ford, Femme Fatale and Saxon on the Sunday. On Monday, after spending the day in the sun of Coco Cay watching Terry Ilous and Great White play a dynamite acoustic set on the beach, we played that night in the Pigale Room on the ship to an enthusiastic audience. The next night (Tuesday) we played the Zebra Room. By Wednesday morning we were home.

Our last week was spent primarily in St. Petersburg, staying at a rented trailer with Dee Lander and her boyfriend Nick Ciccone in St. Petersburg. Dee is the mother of Morgan and Mercedes Lander of Kitty. Nick is an actor and restaurant owner. While in St. Petersburg we visited with Dave and Jillian LeBon and family. We also visited Stett Howland, former drummer for WASP and Lita Ford while cruising through Fort Meyers. By Thursday we were home in the cold.

Brian with Eddie Trunk

I thought the boat cruise was better this year, but primarily because the deal I had with the promoter was better this year and saved me a lot of running around…

The boat cruise itself was terrific. The best group (in my opinion) was the London Quireboys. Lynda and I made friends with them all and attended both of their shows. The best was their acoustic show, where you could really hear Spike sing. He’s got one of those Rod Stewart voices that always seems like it’s just on the verge of breaking. He also had a fantastic raport with the audience.

Brian, Eddie Trunk, Nicko and Bang Tango

Tom Kiefer had to cancel because of pneumonia, so various members of other bands got together to jam instead; a special treat. Great White had Terry Ilous singing for them. He’s just as good as Jack Russell and sings like a motherfucker. The songs from their new CD sounded just like the songs you know them by. Saxon played on the top deck of the ship. At first fans were a little standoffish, but once the band got going they picked up people in the audience. This was one band that obviously does better in Europe than the States, although by the end of the set the fans were loving it. Their new single ‘Sacrifice’ made a good impression on the crowd (and me). It really stood out – a good thing.

I heard that Loudness was terrific, especially the guitar player. I missed them but there was a great buzz on the band. Lita Ford was another performer that I heard good comments on, but I also missed the show. She didn’t wander the ship like the other performers; never saw her out and about once, although we did do an autograph session with her and get pics.

Brian with Femme Fatale

Some other acts I also didn’t see were XYZ, Femme Fatale, and Ronnie Dio’s band. Keel was good and I got up for ‘The Right To Rock’. Stryper played the upper deck stage as well and went over well not only with their old fans but with fans who had never seen the band before.

Russell Graham (Russ Dwarf) played twice with just himself and a guitarist, but he held up well and by the third song into his set looked very comfortable. John Corabi played an acoustic set to open for KIXX and also was involved in the Cinderella jam – as usual very entertaining, with a beautiful strong voice and great guitar playing. Steve Whitehead (my second favorite frontman after Spike) ripped up the stage during the KIXX set. He’s like Mick Jagger on steroids.

Brian with Guy Griffin and Matt Goom

For anyone who has never been on this tour, there’s a HUGE difference between it and say, The Sweden Rock Cruise. First of all, very few drunk people, unlike the SRC where they have to clean out the showers for puke when they return to port. Everyone was orderly and having a good time.

The promoters purposely set the price a little higher to discourage drunks getting on the ship. The cabins are also a notch up from the SRC, the food is great, and the weather – where would you rather see a band – The Bahamas or off the coast of Finland? LOL.

Not that I don’t love Finland, but it ain’t the warmest sun bathing country around… LOL.

Brian with Jamie St James

Bands walked freely around the ship, and for the most part mingled with the fans for pictures, autographs, or just to shoot the breeze. That’s the whole attraction of these things – to meet the people in the bands you grew up with during the 80s. Fans who were broke teenagers in the 80s are now middle aged with disposable incomes and they have no problem shelling out the money for something like this. I believe this tour was sold out months in advance.

Brian with John Corabi

Russell Graham and friends

Brian with Scott Snyder of Great White

Brian with Spike

Brian with Stett Howland in Great Meyers

Terry Ilous

Sleeve Notes

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